I spent 2019 planting seeds. From the very start of the year, I kicked my research on tiny homes into high gear. I scoped out several plots of Georgian land, reached out to local HOAs that owned them, and even got a quote from a local contractor. Most counties never got back to me and many of the areas I considered turned out to be extremely racist. As the year wore on, I grew frustrated with how boxed into Atlanta I was.
When a friend jokingly suggested that I look to California, I took the joke and ran with it. By October, I was flying out to Joshua Tree to scope out properties. I met with the planning department, got the paperwork on specific pieces of land, and felt confident I was on the right path.
While in Joshua Tree, I also saw more RVs than I had ever laid eyes on before. It got me thinking. Why not live in a home on wheels, while I built my tiny home? I picked out a two-bedroom RV with 1.5 baths and prepared for my move in the spring, with or without my family. I was fed up with Georgia and I was leaving no matter what.
Then, at the stroke of midnight and the start of 2020, I received an email from my biggest client. It stated that the company would no longer work with contractors based in California. The email delivered such a crushing blow that it took me at least a month to recover. People grew worried. Friends started messaging and reaching out on social media asking where I had run off to.
That was the depressing start of my 2020 — before the pandemic even hit. In spite of this, my year turned out to be one of the best I’ve had, because I accomplished what I set out to do anyway.
1. I Became a Citizen
Toward the end of January, I became a U.S. Citizen. In all honesty, I was still so shaken by losing California that I barely had the mental capacity to process being an American citizen. It was another few months before it finally hit me that I could vote and finally had rights in the country I had lived in for almost five years.
2. I Dabbled In Painting
By February, I had decided I would move to Nevada, instead of California, and that I would spend some time RVing while I decided on my next move. To help me clear my head, I took up painting. I was certainly no Picasso, but I think I did create an interesting piece or two. I took four of them on the road with me. All the rest are still in Atlanta. Unfortunately, painting gear is too heavy to travel with, so I’m not currently painting. Still, it was fun while it lasted.
3. I Met the Love of My Life
I was originally supposed to leave for Nevada in May, but when the pandemic forced Nevada to shut down, I went back to the drawing board. It compelled me to reconsider the behemoth of an RV I had settled on and to choose something smaller. This would ensure that I could stay mobile and could handle the RV by myself.
Once, I got comfortable with this idea, I took another month to choose a tow vehicle. The Toyota FJ Cruiser topped the list every time, but the price tag was a big deterrent for me. These trucks are based on the Land Cruiser or Prado platform, neither of which are cheap vehicles.
In June, I found two FJ Cruisers that caught my eye. I was originally set on purchasing a black one that was a little out of my price range, but fell in love with Samson once I took a good second look at his specs. I took him for a test drive, got him inspected, and drove him off the lot a week and a half later.
I could not ask for a better bae on wheels. Samson is reliable, extremely capable, ruggedly handsome, tows my vacation home, and has taken me to see more beautiful places than any man ever has.
Want to know how much maintenance work I’ve had to do, since giving him 4,000 lbs to tow? I balanced and rotated my tires before leaving Atlanta. I changed my oil while in Nevada. Mechanics have inspected Samson and can find nothing to bill me for.
I plan on installing a transmission cooler soon, which is completely voluntary. The mechanic has also already warned me; chances are that Samson already has one. We find out in a few days!
4. I Started #30WithAlex
I brought Samson home during a very difficult time. His presence gave me peace of mind. I would gaze out the window at him every night and think to myself, “I could pack my things on a whim tonight, go anywhere, never come back, and be just fine.” This mindset spearheaded my decision to start taking better care of myself. I signed up for therapy and started the #30WithAlex community on Twitter.
We complete 30-day challenges together. Doing them as a group makes it easier to stay focused and stay accountable. It also helped many of us finally shave off those pandemic pounds we had put on. I lost about 15 pounds within the first three or so months of starting #30WithAlex. This kept me in great shape so that getting back into the great outdoors was a breeze.
5. I Bought My Vacation Home
When I bought my RV, the plan was to pack my things quietly and be out of Atlanta before my wasband even realised I was gone. My therapist and I had decided that a quiet leaving was the best solution and that thousands of miles of distance between us would do me some good. She was right. I had horrible insomnia in Atlanta; I sleep like a baby in the desert.
I kept my RV an hour away on the property the original owner housed it. The property owner and the RV seller both gave me lessons on towing, hitching, unhitching, and general RVing. I drove 71 minutes both ways, twice per week, to practice my towing, clean the RV, and pack my things.
6. I Drove Across America During a Pandemic
My parents learned I had bought an RV on the day I picked it up. I then informed them that I was leaving Atlanta in three weeks and didn’t know when I would be back. They understood why I wanted to leave and why I wanted to leave quietly, but they refused to let me go alone. They dropped everything and drove across the country with me in three days. They RVed with me in Las Vegas for an extra day and then flew back to Atlanta.
7. I Became a Nevada Resident
Becoming an American citizen is great and all, but have you ever become a resident of the west? I was so insanely excited when the opportunity came for me to become a Nevada resident. I had already fallen in love with the state, and when my Georgia ballot didn’t come, I knew I had to make a choice. I chose life in the Battleborn State.
I love California, but I’m looking forward to heading back to my new home soon, so I can finish up some paperwork. As far as I’m concerned, I’m a Nevada girl. Georgia has no hold on me.
8. I Cast My First Ballot
I cast the first and only ballot of my adult life in Las Vegas. It was the final step of confirming my Nevada residency while the state struggled to catch up with appointments to update drivers’ licenses and other crucial documents.
The experience of registering in Nevada was so very different from Georgia. The election office actually took my calls and responded to every request I made to follow up on my registration process and ballot tracking.
While I’m sorry I won’t get to vote in the Georgia runoffs, you couldn’t convince me to go back to being an Atlanta Peach.
9. I Diversified My Business
So, what exactly did I do with my Atlanta home? I put my personal items in a closet, put a lock on the door and left my fully furnished apartment as-is.
My mom and I now run the suite as an Airbnb spot. I collect the occasional skim off the top, but most of the money goes to my mom. I wanted to ensure she had extra income to put toward retirement and I wanted to ensure she still got the share of the mortgage I used to pay.
While it certainly won’t have me giving up my PR work anytime soon, it’s good practice. I now have a few ideas regarding how I want to build and manage investment properties out west. Those are 2022 goals, however. For now, I just want to develop the experience.
10. I Made Good Trouble in Arizona
Travelling solo as a Black woman during an election year isn’t all happy tales and cute Instagram posts. I spent December in Mohave County at the Tradewinds RV Park. It was the worst park I ever camped at, primarily because of the residents, the management, and the habit of turning a blind eye to racism. After seeking resolutions through peaceful channels, I ended up having flag wars and bumper sticker battles with a Confederate couple.
I had to install a security system on the RV and plug up my WiFi cameras, but no one harmed me. I got some bad looks and people avoided me like the plague, but I’m proud of having stood up for myself. I am now in Southern California, where people are a lot more welcoming. It’s a night and day difference and that’s despite the fact that I am still the only Black person at camp.
11. We Restarted My Vlog
When I finally told my friends I left Atlanta, almost everyone asked me when I would start vlogging about my RV adventures. Unfortunately, I find filming to be very intrusive. I hate the idea of interrupting a good experience just so I can record it. Maybe, with time, I’ll get better at that.
Still, I’ve been vlogging about some of my experiences. I also have footage from older trips that I never used, so I’m compiling those. If you haven’t yet subscribed to my channel, can I change your mind? I’ll be posting videos every Friday until I run out of content. You can also find shorter videos on our Instagram pages.
So, who’s this our and we? Well, Shadow has also been vlogging on his Instagram!
12. I Finished The Curse of Kalaga
While waiting for the beta review of The Moreau Witches, I started working on a second project. At the time, it was known as Alanis, Land of the Undead. When I completed the first rough draft, the characters conspired against me and changed the title. I also had more work to do as far as fixing the ending, which I finally did this week.
The downside is that I fell really far behind on my reading targets for this year, so I could write more. But, I’m no superwoman. Something had to give after such a busy year.
If you’re interested in joining the beta reading squad for this book, let me know. I’m still taking names. Once I finish my initial read-through, I’ll be sending out a beta copy of the book to 13 readers.
13. I Survived a Pandemic
I have four heart conditions, so chances are I wouldn’t survive a coronavirus episode. One reason I chose to go snowbirding was to untangle myself from that web of connections that come with being part of a blended family. I continue to maintain my distance, even during the holidays. It’s just me, Samson, and Shadow out here.
For the record, no one in my family has become infected with the virus. Even so, isolation has added another blanket of safety. I sleep better knowing I’m alone, even if my neighbours do think I’m a very strange, millennial recluse!
I have no idea what 2021 will hold for me. I’m taking things one day at a time. Maybe when my snowbirding adventure is over, I’ll go back to making plans. What I do know is that the west coast will be home for at least the next few years. It’s amazing that I still get to wake up to desert sunsets and mountain views in the middle of a pandemic.
How was your 2020? I hope it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Even if it was, here comes a whole new year to make into something better.
Happy New Year!